O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
Know that the Lord is God;
it is he that has made us and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting,
and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 21.20-28
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
I am sure that we all know a whole string of Old Wives’ Tales. The sort of saying and story that suggests an ‘obvious’ consequence of some natural phenomenon or action that we have observed or undertaken in our everyday lives. The reality of science has no place in the reasoning behind our acceptance of such ‘signs and portents’. I am sure you can all think of a few such ‘tales’: the misfortune that is supposed to be associated with Friday the 13th, eating carrots will improve your eyesight, spilling salt brings bad luck. The list goes on and on. All of these Old Wives’ Tales are, as we really know, nonsense. Whilst there may in some circumstance or environment have been some sort of coincidence that gave rise to them in the first place, does not make them true for evermore. But, of course, there are some signs and portents that do tell us of what could well happen in the coming days. In today’s reading Jesus warns us of such signs.
As Jesus’ earthly life draws towards its close, his message becomes increasingly uncompromising. Jesus does not wrap up the message of his second coming and the time of final judgement in fancy words or oblique stories. Jesus tells it the way it is. He begins by pointing out the obvious. If we are surrounded by vast hostile forces we recognize the fact that destruction is close at hand. He reminds us that such moments of human crisis and devastation know no boundaries, even the most vulnerable will be victims of the cruelty of their fellow human beings. But … Jesus goes on to speak of other signs and portents.
Throughout scripture we read of the time when this world will come to an end, and the time of God’s kingdom will be ushered in. As with the birth of babies, this will be accompanied, we are told, by a period of great pain. However, as with the coming of a new life into this world, the pain will be comparatively short lived, and it will be followed by great joy. Whatever devastation and pain humanity may inflict upon itself, whether it recognizes the signs of this world’s end or not, the Son of Man will come in glory. Jesus will return and God’s redemption will become manifest to all.
But … scripture also warns us that this coming of God’s kingdom will also be a time of judgement. There will be, for all of us, a time when we will be required to account for our words and deeds. We will face our God and account for how we have use the gifts and talents that he has bestowed upon us. Have we been compassionate and loving, as Jesus was? Have we been generous and accepting, as Jesus was? Have we set self to one side in order that we might serve those in greater need than ourselves, as Jesus did?
Jesus is warning us that the time of judgement will come for us all. He is also asking us what we are doing to prepare for it?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for grace as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Keep the Church faithful to heed your warnings and to trust in your promises. Make her ministers ever watchful to protect your people against evil and to lead them into the way of truth.
Look with compassion on the world where many are weighed down by care and trapped in the desire for ever-increasing pleasure. Heal the hostilities which divide nations, and bring to the whole earth the blessing of peace.
Lift up our eyes to see the signs of our redemption at this present time. When troubles distress us, give strength to us, to our families, friends and neighbours, and free our hearts from fear.
We pray for all who are afflicted, for the victims of war and violence, for those in peril from natural disasters. Bring the calm of your presence to all whose lives are stunted by fear and anxiety.
Receive into eternal life the souls of all who have passed through the dangers of this world and come to their rest. Keep us mindful that after the death of the body we shall stand before the Son of Man, and grant us mercy in that day.
We pray in the name of Christ, whose words will not pass away.
Prayer for the week
Lord, you have blessed the world
by sending your Son into our midst
and by making all things new in him.
We ask you to give all people
the courage and power we need
to share fully in his mission to the world
and to further his kingdom in the lives of all,
to the honour and glory of his name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
and, that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.
Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enrol thee:
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol thee.
George Herbert (1593–1633)